Mass Timber in a Single-Building System

What is going on at Oregon State’s Advanced Wood Product Testing Lab?


Mass Ply Panels have debuted in many projects from the Northwest to the Midwest of the U.S., and design codes have started adopting mass timber into the fold of everyday design.

More access means more designers need innovative solutions. Innovative solutions help make design work quick, efficient, and cost saving. So where does Oregon State University (OSU) come into the picture? OSU has been on the forefront of testing mass timber structures for several years now. With help from the USDA Agricultural Research Service, OSU was tasked with testing these mass timber elements in a single building system. The test will look at how all the pieces behave together. The results will help engineers check their designs against real data.

The Test

The diagram below shows a model of the test using a “post and beam” design. A three-story building made from full scale mass timber beams, columns, and floors made of Mass Ply sits in OSU’s lab. The building uses steel connectors to fasten wood together. The steel absorbs energy from loads like earthquakes and wind.


Think of the steel and wood like the human skeleton and muscles. Wood acts like the skeleton of the body. The skeleton is strong, rigid, and can resist a large load. Steel connecting the wood is like the muscle and tendons. Muscles absorb energy and release it to protect the skeleton and what is inside.

Researchers will apply load to the building using a large piston between the building and a concrete wall.

OSU will test different shapes of steel connectors and wood parts to see how they work together. Along with floors, Mass Ply will also be used as a “shear wall.” A shear wall is a large wall meant to give the building rigidity when sideways loads push on it. Using the steel with the wood will give the building plenty of strength while remaining durable against these sideways loads over many cycles.

OSU Mass Timber


With testing underway, we have a lot to learn about how these mass timber systems will perform.

With these results, designers will compare their designs, assumptions, and expectations to high quality data. Better data means designers can feel confident in their designs and begin to prescribe more of these buildings as time goes on.

As for Mass Ply, this product is well suited for the uses seen here. The panels are rigid, come in a variety of sizes, and can fit many situations that arise in design. If designers like what they see, Mass Ply can even serve as the beams and columns – as seen in this testing. Mass Ply now has a chance to prove its performance in a lab setting, which both designers and builders will find quite useful. This testing will serve as the backbone for many buildings to come. We are excited to see what comes next.


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